Silver Flag prepares Airmen for deployment

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

More than 4,500 people travel to Tyndall AFB each year to learn how to build and maintain bare-base operations at a forward-deployed location.

The Silver Flag Exercise Site is home to Det. 1, 823d REDHORSE. The squadron's 74-person cadre provides contingency combat support training to active-duty, reserve and Air National Guard Airmen, Army, Marine Corps and allied nations mission support group personnel.

Over the years, the training at Silver Flag has evolved, which includes disaster preparedness, fire protection, explosive ordnance disposal, food service and lodging skills, chemical warfare operations and personnel accountability.

The Airmen train three career fields at the training site: services, civil engineering firefighting and operations management. All of these career fields have vastly different missions, but the Silver Flag site finds a way to incorporate them into their goal of training confident and competent Airmen.

“We teach students of multiple career fields the standard of operating in their job during war time,” said Master Sgt. Steven Moore, Det. 1, 823d REDHORSE section chief of engineering and operations management. “Many Airmen may not have that experience of deploying, so we give them the opportunity to practice like they play before going down range.”

Airmen from the operations management career field normally have the role of administrative tracking of facility and land usage. When deployed, they gain the additional responsibility of ensuring working communications for civil engineering as well as deal with host nation supply chains as needed.

“In a deployed setting, we would track all work scheduling for civil engineering,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Brace, Det. 1, 823d REDHORSE operations management NCO-in-charge. “We are able to give our students hands-on training with dealing with material management through foreign suppliers. We also teach them how to program radios, which as operations management, we are responsible for when deployed. Our five-to-six day program culminates on the final day with a sitewide exercise that lets the students utilize everything they’ve learned.”

Another necessary field is the services career field. Most Airmen know services personnel as the specialists who prepare and serve their food at the dining facility, but they responsible for much more while deployed.

“In addition to the normal duties a services specialist would have, such as ensuring that the best quality food is given to our Airmen, we will also take part in taking care of and transporting bodies after attacks,” said Senior Airman Casey Belieu, a 104th Fighter Wing services specialist, who participated in a recent Silver Flag exercise. “I like the satisfaction of being the ones to give respect to the body and recover it home. This training has prepared me for the real world expectations of working in austere conditions.”

Finally, there are the fire protection specialists, who deal with everything from brush fires to burning rocket fuel and hazardous material fires. When deployed, the importance of their job escalates as the nature of a deployed environment requires absolute security and safety.

On the final day of the exercise, firefighters are expected to complete multiple training rescue missions, to include building fire rescue training, aircraft fire training and even helicopter crash recovery. Firefighters receive specific expeditionary training that supply the combatant commander with a highly trained and skilled emergency response force.

As a final exercise, the firefighters ignite what is referred to as the “burn pit” that burns jet fuel at high temperatures. This exercise involves a burning aircraft husk and utilizing advanced firefighting equipment with automatic sprayers to douse the flames.

Despite the diversity of these career fields, the cadre are able to intertwine their specific skills and advanced knowledge to create a comprehensive and cohesive training experiment for all Airmen involved.

“The Silver Flag site gives combatant commanders personnel that are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice and do their job confidently without hesitation,” said Brace.